Disclaimer: I'm not talking about clinical depression, as I know very little about it and there're people who do know much more about it. This is merely my experience, feelings and perspective.
Not entirely sure where to begin with this. I want to write about my experience with depression and the connection gaming had in a direct or indirect manner with helping get me out of quite a bad rut. But I've no reason to divulge information about myself simply for the purpose of you guys knowing. The aim of this article is to hopefully reach out to those in a similiar position or disposition, as it were. I've seen other people in the community talk about how low they feel and I've read some posts regarding this topic, this is simply my two cents and while I don't assume it will help anyone, I do hope that even one person, will understand and know that all is not lost.
Long Ass Intro It's been c. 2 years now since I went through a severe patch of what I suppose, is easy to call, depression. I never sought medical or psychology attention for my troubles. What I went through was just a very, very rough, potentially life destroying, patch. I do not oppose at all, seeking the above aid or other methods of help for coping with something as crippling as depression, but for me personally, I knew that it was not for me, at that time. What got me through, tore me away from a darkness I was submitting to and being pulled towards, was a small handful of elements. Friends/family that cared for me, prayer and faith in God, time and my own self.
I hated how people would tell me that "time was the greatest healer", I couldn't understand that and didn't want to. I didn't see anything changing and that was because I hadn't actually given it time. I was so adamant that a possible aid to my sadness was ridiculous and yet I was actively fighting it. I was shutting out time, like some sort of rum-loving Dr. Who.
It's hard for people who don't have faith to contemplate how others do have it, I understand that. But if people take time to show respect to people suffering from depression so bad they require medication, then the same basic respect should be shown to people who's faith does, whether you concur or not, help them as well. Without my faith, I would not be writing now, I can assure you that. You can not assure me of anything that counters that, for you are not me.
When depressed, the easiest comfort is to succumb to the feeling of bleak, hopelessness. Sleeping is another powerful tool, for me it meant unconciusness, which meant I skipped various hours of the day, thinking it would lead me closer to an end or a magical cure. But there is no magical cure to absolute discontentment and loss of hope. At least no instant one. People often ask "how" when they are discussing getting out of a rut and getting 'better'. How is a difficult question to answer coherently and words lose all meaning when you're at the lowest point. I don't want to stray here, but Yoda said it best "Do or do not... there is no try". Well there is no manual on 'how', it merely is.
But this is about the connection between gaming and how it helped me. I wrote about it in a simple manner here
The main steps to breaking the curse of situational depression, is to be active. To not lie in bed, hoping for miracles. No you need to be the miracle worker, because any joy you start to get in those bouts of sorrow, may seem like a temprary miracle. Do simple things and if you can, you do big things as well. Take risks, without risking your safety.
I went on lots of walks, in the same locations. I had to change that. So I went somewhere else and took a camera or a book. I never actually fed ducks before so I went to a pond locally and fed them. I tried new foods, places and started to work out. I made blogs, I joined forums and I did new things in games, that other people had been doing for ages anyway, which leads us to the crux of this.
Finally we get to the games I've always played video games, since I was a wee cub. Games are a great form of entertain but also a means of time passing and if enthralling enough can make you forget for a moment whatever currently plagues your mind. A lot of the time when times were quite bad I wouldn't want to do anything, but when I did and played games I would play them all night long. An example being, in the space of a handful of days I had replayed Dragon Age II alone in order to get all the achievements, I also started to buy expansions to give me more games to play, to kill more time.
I joined Destructoid forums, after being a front page lurket and started to frequent, reading blogs belonging to other gamers and found that they weren't just specific in their content, that some would speak about the social aspects and share similiar notions. I got back into blog writing myself and submitted them on Dtoid, my own blog site and this year, to others. The latter has had me interact with a wider audience, meet cool people and go to events where I get to play games, drink Japanese beer and see what it's like on the other side. I still am awaiting a paid role, but for now this is a lot more productive and positive that when I started out.
Via Destructoid, I met people online initially and would be talking to them daily on Skype or other mediums. Not only were they people to listen to me, but people to offer an ear to be heard as well. Jokes, gaming and meet ups occurred via this group, which kept expanding. I came out of my shell somewhat, while still maintaining 'safety first' protocols, but more lapse than I had been in years prior. I got into Steam and stuck with it, I went to conventions I hadn't before and had great times drinking and watching films like The Room with people. You know who you are. Yeah fallings out happened, that's inevitable when you're in a mixed group of strong opinated people. But do I regret the good times, do I dissolve the fact that it was still a prominent part in me getting back to 'normal' and pushing depression away? No, because to do that would be disrespectful to others, to myself and moreso it would be a lie. Lieing to yourself prolongs suffering internally and externally.
Gaming as a direct hobby, occupies our minds. But you don't have to just pick up a game, play, immerse and leave it at that. Seek other avenues of interaction, try and make friends who share your hobby and get in-jokes you might make. Go to conventions, go to meet ups. Start a blog and write from the heart. Try new games suggested by people and make suggestions yourself. Read and be open minded, be true to your convictions but be aware that sometimes you might simply be just plain wrong.
Games exist at the moment, such as Actual Sunlight, http://www.actualsunlight.com/ (a game about, love and depression) that are covering common human emotions. Games are now delving into territories that use to be exclusive to literature, music and film.
The Definate Do-Do's& Donty Don'ts Don't dismiss aid from people, especially if they've gone through depression themselves, but have no fear in believing that certain aspects you've summarised are correct. It's not about being right or wrong. Depression is something that means to consume you, but you alone can fight it off and it seems so impossible that it will ever go away, but it will.
You just need to - pull your finger out and do something about it. I'm serious, don't think no good will come and you will be miserable forever. Slap yourself...twice...because it's not the case. You'll push people away and push yourself down further. You can read lots of essays by people, you can talk and talk about the same issues, but at some point the talking will be repetative. The doing needs to be activated, the sooner that happens, the better.
I'm not very tactful, not that wise and am extremely stubborn at times, but I am humble. I acknowledge my flaws and try to better them and I acknowledged that after a year of sleeping through the day, walking at night and crying no matter daylight or dark, nothing was going to change unless I did something, even minisucle, seemingly pointless actions. So if I was able to get through something I thought would end me, what's to stop you? I am so glad and relieved it happened, because I may not be able to type this right now. There's no time frame on how long you're allowed to feel pangs of depression, but for your own sake, making an effort before it gets too long is advisable, heck it should be mandatory.